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Eblex guide to reducing cases of dark cutting beef; Farming.

Byline: Andrew Hebden

BEEF producers have been issued with guidelines to help reduce the amount of dark cutting beef found in slaughtered young bulls and boost the industry by up to pounds 2.3m annually.

The incidence of dark cutting beef found in young bulls slaughtered commercially is currently as high as 10%, which reduces carcase values by around 35p/kg or pounds 115 per animal - amounting to around pounds 2.3m industry wide each year, according to Eblex.

The figures, from research carried out at the University of Bristol, do not take into account any further downgrading of the carcase caused by the high levels of bruising which often accompanies dark cutting beef.

The problem is usually caused by stress around the time of slaughter if the animals are mixed with unfamiliar ones, which can lead to fighting and mounting, and the fatigue caused by transport.

Eblex meat scientist Kim Matthews said: "With more favourable economics likely to mean more bulls being reared over the coming year, careful management of bulls in stable social groups is the key to avoiding dark cutting problems."

Eblex has produced a comprehensive list of dos and don'ts to help avoid issues that can lead to dark cutting beef:

Never mix bulls with unfamiliar animals (other bulls, steers or heifers reared in a different social group) at any time in the two weeks prior to slaughter.

Never hold bulls, even for the shortest period, with unfamiliar animals in farm rearing pens or raceways, loading pens or transport compartments, lairage pens or raceways.

If bulls from separate rearing pens are needed to make up a consignment of animals for slaughter, clearly colour-mark all stock to prevent accidental mixing at any stage in the journey from pen to slaughter.

Consider rearing bulls in relatively large groups of 40 or more despite more variable growth rates to allow sufficient numbers to be drafted for slaughter with the least possible need for mixed consignments.

If regrouping, and therefore mixing, of bulls is essential for good husbandry or if mixing occurs accidentally, keep animals in their new social groups for a minimum of two weeks before sending them for slaughter.

If individual bulls have to be removed from a pen and kept separate for a time, never return them to their original group. Instead put them into a new group of younger, smaller animals where the size difference will prevent bullying of the single animal.

Never move groups of bulls to new pens unnecessarily and, wherever possible, avoid frequent weighing and re-tagging or clipping out within a week of slaughter.

Always make water available to bulls right up to the time of loading for slaughter; handle them quietly set off immediately they are loaded; keep journey times to a minimum; and preferably, slaughter them promptly on arrival at the abattoir.

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GOOD ADVICE Beef producers have been told how to enhance the value of slaughtered young bulls.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2009
Words:489
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